The Fear of Failure

Ryleigh Hayworth, Design Editor

Failure is a part of life, but for some reason it has been engraved into our brains that failure is not an option. The mindset we are building is detrimental to our confidence, our motivation, and ultimately our ability to achieve. Why is there so much pressure to succeed? Why is it that we aren’t allowed to fail?

It is hard to look for positive things in the face of negative circumstances, but the good news is that it isn’t impossible. One of the hardest things for me is recognizing things I can learn from the mistakes I’ve made. Yesterday, I got a grade back on a thesis for my College AP United States History class. The grade: a 1.5. I was shocked and a bit disappointed. I consider myself a pretty good student, and this grade definitely did not meet my standards. The thing about this thesis though, was that I typed it on my phone on the bus to Central. Reflecting on the methods that earned me this grade, I found my “room for improvement” of this particular failure.

More times than not people base their success on the opinions of others.If we let others’ opinions dictate our goals, we most definitely will not be passionate about achieving them and working to become better people, whether that be at a sport, musical instrument, or academics. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like it, but the opinions of others are not the determining voice of your failure. Criticism doesn’t denote failure, it denotes room for improvement.

The opinions of others are not the determining voice of your failure. Criticism doesn’t denote failure, it denotes room for improvement.

— Ryleigh Hayworth

A few weekends ago, I auditioned to play flute in the Iowa All State Band. That audition was one of the most nerve-racking experiences of my life. I didn’t go in expecting to make it, which was a wise call on my part, as I have heard horror stories of kids bursting into tears as the lists of who made it are posted. I was preparing for and going to the audition as a learning experience. Let’s just say I did not play to the best of my abilities once I got into that room and saw the judge’s face. I did not make it into All State (big surprise), but I did learn that scales are a relatively painless thing to practice for the sake of my improvement. I was able to walk out of there laughing at my mistakes, even though initially I was stressed about the audition.

“Look at the bright side, at least (insert unfavorable outcome of your choice here) didn’t happen.” This cliche can be encouraging or infuriating, yet it’s the first thing that comes to mind when something doesn’t turn out as hoped. I struggle immensly with setting unrealistic expectations for myself, and beating my self up when (inevitably) I can’t meet those expectations. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who struggles with this. So for those of you who are in the same boat as me, I’m challenging all of us to a new mindset. What if we stopped thinking about our failures as something we did wrong, and started thinking about them as something new to try next time?

When I get a 1.5 on an assignment I didn’t try on, I know that next time I can get a better grade by spending a few more minutes on it. When I bomb a big audition, I know that next time I need to practice my scales more. Improvement does not need to come in one fell swoop. If we reach perfection early on in life, we will have nowhere to grow. Imperfection simply means we’re waiting on a glow up. If we take away one lesson (at the bare minimum) from every situation where we do not meet expectations, we will have an instruction manual for our personal improvement.